MyMT™ Blog

Every Step Counts, but not as many as we think: New research about walking and health in post-menopause women.

It’s been a hive of activity in the MyMT™ Coaching Community. Michelle put up a post with gorgeous photos of her lunch-time walk down by the River Thames in London.

I feel so proud to work in an amazing City that I wanted to show you what I see if I make the effort to walk. It is very hot here in London, but walking along the River Thames keeps you cool. Is anyone else walking of a lunchtime who would like to share their walk?”

What unfolded was amazing. So many women sharing their walk with us all. Leann was in the Northern Territory in a place called Kings Canyon. Karen was walking in Surrey. Karen was walking at the bottom of the earth in Invercargill, New Zealand. Natalie shared a photo from her walk along the waterfront in Petone, New Zealand. I shared a photo from my walk in Edinburgh last week, complete with 100 steps that I climbed and on a balmy day in Sydney, Donna shared the glorious blue sky and city landscape that was Sydney in winter. Lydia shared her walk at Paradise Point in Australia, the beautiful image which is below. 

Walking at lunchtime during your busy day calms the soul and the nerves. As we move through menopause, our nervous system is also experiencing the effects of our ageing as we not only lose oestrogen on receptors along the nerve sheath, but because our blood vessels lose their elasticity too. For millions of women, these changes increase the rate of nerve firing causing them to feel anxious, irritable and exhausted. This is why walking or other aerobic activity helps. Aerobic activity is the type of activity whereby we breathe rhythmically and don’t get out of breath. The rhythmic movement of aerobic activity helps the nervous system to fire more regularly, thus decreasing feelings of anxiety.

It’s why walking is just one of my powerful recommendations for time-poor, exhausted women who are experiencing hot flushes, increased anxiety and depression and/or weight gain and sore joints and muscles, as they transition through menopause. We get so focused on high intensity exercise but for so many women, as it was for me as well, sore joints and muscles prevent the health benefits of the higher intensity exercise.

The other thing that I teach women, is that when we do a lot of high intensity exercise and we aren’t sleeping, then we increase our stress hormone called cortisol, which negates sleep. It becomes a vicious cycle of exhaustion and depression as our blood sugar crashes. What’s more, when we aren’t sleeping we hold onto pockets of inflammation which cause more havoc with our hot flushes and sore joints. Women in the MyMT programmes, know that exercise is important, but sleeping all night is more important to our health as we age. Sleep all night first and then add back in exercise.

Walking is one of the simplest activities that we can do for our healthy exercise – except when our ankles and lower legs are swollen and inflamed and we find walking is too hard. If this is you, then your priority is to reduce the inflammation that has been building up (this is what I focus you on in the MyMT programmes) and work with a rehabilitation and bio-mechanical specialist to get back your function and form.

As I think about all the hundreds of women on the MyMT programmes, getting healthy exercise back into their life, I’m also reminded of new research on ‘how much walking is enough’. Professor I-Min Lee has been studying physical activity for decades. As an Associate Epidemiologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, she decided to explore the basis for 10,000 steps and whether this was a realistic target for older women to be achieving. She and her research team decided to explore the popular premise whether 10,000 steps a day provides a dose-response relationship for the health of post-menopause women.

Kaye began with the MyMT Circuit Breaker programme which also has my walking programme in it. Tired, overweight and with sore joints, look at her 18 months later. Go Kaye!

A goal of 10,000 steps a day is the ‘gold standard’ for millions of people. Over the past decade or so, this benchmark has also sold a huge number of step-counting devices as well as inspired team challenges throughout companies the world over. These are known as ‘wearable technologies’ and over 125 million units were shipped worldside in 2017. That’s a lot of step-counting.

For busy women transitioning through menopause and into post-menopause, 10,000 steps is a challenging number to achieve every day especially when joints and muscles often become sore and aching. I was the same, which is why I also have a fabulous joint health webinar for women in the MyMT programmes.

Physical activity participation research attests to the decline in physical activity for women over the age of 50 who are the highest cohort (along with adolescence girls) to drop out of regular physical activity. Professor Wendy Brown and her team have been studying this for over 30 years in Australia. And here’s the thing – I can attest to this as well. When I wasn’t sleeping and had sore joints and muscles and my weight was increasing daily, the last thing I felt like doing was my beloved exercise – especially with the emphasis on boot camps, high intensity workouts and a ‘go-hard, or go-home’ training mantra. I wish I had known about Professor Min-Lee’s work at the time.

Where did 10,000 steps originate?

The 10,000 steps protocol originated back in 1965 when a Japanese company made a device called Manpo-kei. The translated to ’10,000 steps meter’ and it was intended as a marketing tool. So began the notion of needing to achieve 10,000 steps in our health consciousness. Because Professor Min-Lee had already been studying the relationship between physical activity and health in older women, she took her 10,000 steps curiosity to this demographic too. I’m so pleased that she did. The research looked at over 16,000 women aged between 62 years to 101 years and for 4 years between 2011 and 2015, all participants wore tracking devices during waking hours.

The researchers wanted to explore whether increased steps were associated with fewer deaths.

The findings from the study are important for us all to know – especially for those women struggling to find the time, energy and motivation to exercise. The key findings from the study include:

  • Sedentary women averaged 2,700 steps a day.
  • Women who averaged 4,400 daily steps had a 41% reduction in mortality.
  • Mortality rates progressively improved before leveling off at approximately 7,500 steps per day.

As the researchers concluded, if you want to prevent an early death, then walking matters, but some is better than none, and So, if mortality — death — is your major concern, this study suggests you can reap benefits from 7,500 steps a day. That’s 25% fewer steps than the more common goal of 10,000 steps. “Every step counts” says Professor Min-Lee, “but don’t be intimidated by having to get 10,000 steps if you are a woman in post-menopause.”

So here’s some pointers that I often share with women on my coaching programme. If you’re typically sedentary then you are probably doing around 2000 steps daily just in your day to day movement, so try to add 2,000 more daily steps. this will give you an average of at least 4,400 daily steps. While 2,000 steps equals one mile (2.2km), it’s not necessary to walk it all at once. Instead, try to take extra steps over the course of each waking hour.

This is great advice for all of us. That’s why I loved seeing the images shared my some of the women on the MyMT™ coaching programmes. All were out walking during their busy, working days. For many, a brief walk at lunch-time or early in the morning before the trials and tribulations of the day starts is just one of the changes they are making to get on top of their symptoms in menopause. I love this, because we all have to start somewhere and for over 30 years, it’s been my passion and purpose to enable women to become active again. Too many are dropping out and menopause symptoms are often the blame.

If this is you, then please come and join me on either of the MyMT™programmes. I have a joint health module and a walking programme as well as all the scientifically evidenced information, including nutritional information, which will help you to sleep all night and renew your energy levels so you can get your life back on track.

Each programme is accessed via your exclusive member area and over the 12 weeks, my online delivery means that you access one module at a time so it’s not too overwhelming. I hope that you can visit the My Menopause Transformation website and read about Circuit Breaker (for thinner/ leaner women) or Transform Me (for overweight women) and/or my online exercise programme which is simply called ‘Rebuild Your Fitness’.

I can’t wait for you to join me. You’ll love my private coaching community too. It’s full of women just like you. 😊

Dr Wendy Sweet, PhD/ Women’s Healthy Ageing Researcher & MyMT Founder & Coach. 

PS: If you are thinner or leaner, then join me on the Circuit Breaker programme which is ON SALE in July. Please use the promo code RESTART 2019 on any Buy Now button on the website.

Reference:

I-Min Lee, Shiroma, E.,Masamitsu K. et.al, (2019). Association of Step Volume and Intensity With All-Cause Mortality in Older Women. JAMA Intern Med. Published online May 29, 2019.

“If you have ever wondered if there was a clear easy plan to follow to sleep all night, reduce hot flushes and prevent or reduce your weight gain during menopause, then ‘welcome’ – you’re in the right place now.”

Discover how either of my two Menopause Transformation programmes might help you too or take my Symptoms Quiz below… 

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